June 20, 2018
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Hoteliers at odds over cost of records

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — In an ongoing dispute between two millionaire motel moguls, the cost of printing transcripts of municipal meetings has become an issue in an appeal one has filed against the other in Hancock County Superior Court.

Earlier this summer, the Witham Family Limited Partnership, controlled by David J. Witham, filed an appeal over Bar Harbor’s approval of a proposal from North-South Corp. to build a $12 million hotel on West Street. North-South is a subsidiary of Ocean Properties Ltd., an international resort firm owned by the family of Thomas T. Walsh.

In competing motions filed in Superior Court, attorneys representing Witham and Walsh have been arguing over what kinds of records should be included in the court’s review of the case. Among the motions over memos, meeting minutes, ordinances and amendments is a disagreement over transcripts of meetings by Bar Harbor’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

Witham’s attorneys argue that, if some meeting transcripts are made available to the court, then transcripts from all the planning and appeals board meetings about Walsh’s proposal should be presented to the court.

Walsh’s attorneys disagree. In a reply filed earlier this month, Walsh’s attorneys contend the meeting transcripts the court should have are the ones that were considered by Bar Harbor’s appeals board or that reflect the appeals board’s discussions of the case.

Moreover, they argue, the cost of producing the additional transcripts should fall on Witham, because he is the appellant in the court case.

Ocean Properties “went to great expense” to prepare transcripts for the town’s appeals board, according to the response from Walsh’s attorneys. “It is only appropriate that Witham bear the cost of preparing any such [additional] transcripts.”

The four hotels Walsh owns in Bar Harbor are the Harborside Hotel & Marina, the Bar Harbor Regency, Days Inn and Park Entrance Motel, which have a cumulative assessed value of approximately $47 million. Ocean Properties owns other hotels in Maine, including the Fairfield Inn in Bangor and the Samoset Resort in Rock-port, and more than 100 resort properties throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

Witham owns or co-owns 11 hotel properties in Hancock County, including seven in Bar Harbor and three in Ellsworth. The estimated assessed value of all 11 properties is believed to be $50 million.

Despite Witham’s appeal, Ocean Properties has indicated that, because it has received the town’s approval, it plans to begin site work this fall for the new $12 million hotel on West Street.

A date for when arguments in the court appeal might be made orally in open court has not yet been set.

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